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Zombie High (Blu-ray Review)

Zombie-HighI used to be normal…happy…well-adjusted…but that was before… On December 15, 2015, Scream Factory proudly presents Zombie High in a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack, for the first time on either format. A brand new high-definition transfer highlights the incredible story of a hard-working student and the warped way of life that made her go wacky!  Virginia Madsen (Candyman, Sideways) and Richard Cox (Cruising) star in this humorous thriller about the bizarre happenings that occur in a prestigious boarding school. The film features a great supporting cast including Sherilyn Fenn (Twin Peaks, Ray Donovan), Scott Coffey (Mullholland Drive, Lost Highway) and Paul Feig, who would go on to create the TV series Freaks And Geeks and direct such films as Spy, Bridsmaids and the 2016 remake of Ghostbusters.

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Film 

It seems to Andrea Miller that the upper-classmen act like robots. They’re the perfect students – dedicated, involved and loyal. Their clothes are perfectly pressed and their hair is perfectly styled. It seems that the teachers have something to do with this ingratiating behavior. And when Andrea, the new kid at school, sees her friends turning into clones, she starts to suspect the worst.

Zombie High is another “save” from Scream Factory.  The film never made the leap from VHS to DVD.  Now, as a combo pack, its made the jump to both DVD and Blu-ray.  It boasts an early performance from Virginia Madsen and sees director of Bridesmaids, Spy and the upcoming Ghostbusters Paul Feig in a supporting role as well as a pre-Twin Peaks Sherilyn Fenn.  These types of releases, like the film or not, I’m always welcoming of and happy to see, so as things aren’t lost or forgotten.

This one, though, is pretty forgettable.  While the title has the word Zombie in it, there is little here that you would relate to when you think of a zombie film.  Also with the title is some silliness, but this film really isn’t even close to being a borderline comedy.  As a matter of fact, its more in the supernatural mystery realm.  There’s no gore and the make-up effects don’t show themselves until the very end.  It starts out okay, and its fun to meet many of these characters, but when the film gets down to its core goal, its rather kinda boring and disappointing that its not really anything fun.

Virginia Madsen is pretty strong in this film.  She’s very watchable and gives a very nice performance here with the movie resting its shoulders on her.  Its not enough, as the core story with what this film is about just isn’t interesting and everything you’d expect.  Supporting her are Sherilyn Fenn and Paul Feig.  Feig is great every time he shows up on screen.  Next to Madsen, he’s the best thing this movie has going for it.  He’s not in it near enough.

I was hoping for something of a cross of horror and comedy with Zombie High, but I feel like I wasn’t given either.  As a matter of fact, I would have watched the hell out of this movie had it just stayed some sort of college comedy about Virginia Madsen’s character and Paul Feig’s.  Its set up to sorta be that if it wants to, but ultimately its not.  Judging the film for what it is, its not awful, its just not that interesting and a bit too boring.  Oh and…kudos to the “Fight For Your Right” knock off song (“Kiss My Butt” or whatever they call it) in the film.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  This is kind of a middle of the road picture, with a lot of inherent softness to it.  This film can vary in its quality from shot to shot even within a scene.  The second half of the film looks a bit more crisper and well defined than the first, especially in more darkly lit sequences.  Its a very golden/yellow filtered film and some of the exteriors can look a little too washed out.  However, the image is still solid enough and is a big jump from its predecessor in home media; VHS.

Depth:  Solid depth work, with movements being cinematic in nature with blur maybe happening in really quick moving scenes.  Background imagery comes with decent clarity when the focus allows for it.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and welcome extra grain in darker set scenes.  Clothing, surfaces and hair that are dark/black in color manage to retain a good amount of detail without losing too much.

Color Reproduction:  This isn’t in your face with its 80s, but when those stylings do creep out, they are handled with a good decency and don’t bleed or prove too vibrant.  Colors are held a bit to a natural look, if not a tad faded at times.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones look mostly natural throughout.  Close-ups unveil plenty of detail, like wrinkles, facial blemishes and make-up.

Noise/Artifacts:  There is a heavier layer of grain than normal with Scream Factory titles.  Aside from that, its pretty clean.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English

Dynamics:  Zombie High provides a mediocre audio track.  Its sense of balance between music, sound effects and vocals isn’t the greatest, with each stepping on the others’ toes time to time.  Overall it has a sort of in a can sound to the film.  This isn’t awful, its just less than ideal and much muffled sounding throughout.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  For most of the film, the dialogue is nice, audible and clear.  There are a couple scenes in the film where music or something drowns out the vocals or they are set to a lower than suitable level.

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Extras 

Zombie High comes with a DVD copy of the film.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 1:05) – This tries to sell the film as a straight up comedy. NOPE

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Summary 

Buyer beware; this isn’t zombies like you’d be expecting.  And with a title like Zombie High, its not really a comedy either.  With what it does give, its nothing too strong to boast on its own.  Virginia Madsen is a very good lead and tries to pull it in and carry this all on her own, but the script is sorta too boring to work.  This Blu-ray comes with average audio and video quality, without providing much in the way of extras.  Seeing as this will likely go down as some sort of collector’s item in the future (It never made it to DVD, I’m doubtful it moves ahead in future formats), I’d pick it up for the right low price.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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